Durham 2016Read more about Durham
This is HMIC’s third PEEL (police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy) assessment of Durham Constabulary. PEEL is designed to give the public information about how their local police force is performing in several important areas, in a way that is comparable both across England and Wales, and year on year. The assessment is updated throughout the year with our inspection findings and reports.
The extent to which the constabulary is effective at keeping people safe and reducing crime is outstanding.
The extent to which the constabulary is efficient at keeping people safe and reducing crime is outstanding.
The extent to which the constabulary is legitimate at keeping people safe and reducing crime is good.
Michael Cunningham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
I congratulate Durham Constabulary on sustaining its exceptional overall performance.
Durham Constabulary has an outstanding approach to preventing crime and tackling serious and organised crime. It investigates crime to a high standard, and provides good support to victims and vulnerable people.
The force goes to great lengths to identify and mitigate the principal threats to the people it serves. It manages the threats from serious and organised crime by enforcement activities and a comprehensive approach for preventing people from becoming involved in serious and organised crime groups.
The force places an emphasis on preventative approaches such as restorative justice and problem solving. It has equipped its workforce with the knowledge and skills to use these approaches and to work with partner organisations. The force routinely shares knowledge of practices that are effective in solving problems and in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour.
The force has a thorough understanding of the costs of providing its services and consistently reviews these to improve its efficiency without reducing the level of service it provides to the public.
I am particularly impressed with the force’s continuing work to identify and understand those demands that may be hidden – for example, from victims of so-called honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Durham Constabulary has a thorough understanding of the current and future demands for its services, and of its costs.
This understanding shapes how the force organises the services it offers, and how it develops and supports its workforce. This includes the innovative and ambitious use of computers and technology, which allows it to provide services more efficiently and effectively.
The force has a good understanding of how demand for its services may arise from reductions in the funding of other organisations. It is working with partner organisations such as Darlington Council and the North East Ambulance Service to identify and reduce the impact of such changes.
I am reassured that Durham Constabulary has a culture in which high ethical standards are understood and practised across the organisation. It recognises the importance of enhancing public confidence and has established ways of engaging with those with less trust and confidence in the police to understand their perception of fair and respectful treatment.
The force is effective in making its workforce aware of what standards are expected of them. I am concerned, however, that the force does not have sufficient capability actively to monitor force systems to identify corrupt practices.
Durham Constabulary continues to work closely with Durham University Business School to understand the well-being and perceptions of the workforce. Officers and staff are encouraged to be innovative and offer suggestions for improvement. The force changes its working arrangements in response to this feedback to improve the well-being of the workforce.
In summary, I commend the force on the service it is providing to the people of Durham.
Durham Constabulary provides policing services to the areas of County Durham and Darlington. Durham has a high level of poverty, although there are some highly affluent areas. The force area is home to around 0.6 million people, who live in a predominantly rural setting. The area includes the city of Durham and the town of Darlington as well as several smaller towns. The resident population is increased by university students and the large numbers who visit or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes 63 miles of motorway and trunk roads.
The proportion of areas in Durham that are predicted (on the basis of detailed economic and demographic analysis) to present a very high challenge to the police is very low compared to the national average. The most challenging areas are generally characterised by a high concentration of people living, working, socialising, or travelling in the area.
Features which both cause and/or indicate a concentration of people include the number of commercial premises, including licensed premises and fast-food premises, public transport, and social deprivation. In some areas, these features are combined.
Durham Constabulary is actively seeking all possible opportunities to work collaboratively with other police forces and a range of public and private sector partners.
It is already involved in a large number of collaborative agreements with police forces, partnership agencies, the private sector and other emergency service providers. Agreements cover operational services, operating systems, the vehicle fleet and the built estate.
The force is part of a longstanding collaborative arrangement with North Yorkshire Police and Cleveland Police, operating as ‘Evolve’. It has appointed a new deputy chief constable within the past year.
Looking ahead to 2017
In the year ahead, I will be interested to see how Durham Constabulary responds to this assessment and to the areas for improvement that HMIC identified last year.
I will be particularly interested to see:
- how the force addresses its limited capacity to seek intelligence on potentially corrupt practices; and
- the progress of the ambitious ICT strategy to enhance further the efficient provision of services.
How effective is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Durham Constabulary has been assessed as outstanding in respect of its effectiveness at keeping people safe and reducing crime. The constabulary has an outstanding approach to preventing crime and tackling serious and organised crime. It investigates crime to a high standard, and provides good support to victims and vulnerable people. Our overall judgment this year is the same as last year, when we judged the constabulary to be outstanding in respect of effectiveness.
Overall the effectiveness of Durham Constabulary is judged to be outstanding. In arriving at this view HMIC has taken account of how the constabulary treats, identifies and supports vulnerable victims, investigates crime – including serious and organised crime – and engages with its communities.
Durham Constabulary goes to great lengths to identify and mitigate the principal threats to its communities. It has equipped officers well to work with partners to promote resolutions that protect communities and victims. It has a very strong culture of problem-solving, routinely sharing knowledge of best practice in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour.
The constabulary is good at investigating crime from the initial report onwards. There is good supervision of the process and outcome rates are good. However, the constabulary has a backlog of digital devices awaiting forensic examination and this is an area that requires some improvement.
The constabulary continues to support victims and provides excellent service to its communities. The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime is at the centre of investigations and victims’ satisfaction with the service is good. The constabulary responds to all calls for service, irrespective of the seriousness of the incident which demonstrates to its communities that the constabulary is working hard to protect them.
Durham Constabulary is outstanding at tackling serious and organised crime and has created a culture whereby all staff take responsibility for this, not just specialised departments. It works effectively to prevent people becoming involved in crime and organised crime groups.
Durham Constabulary is well prepared to respond to the threats specified in the Strategic Policing Requirement (PDF document).
How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Durham Constabulary has been assessed as outstanding in respect of the efficiency with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
Durham Constabulary understands the public demand for policing and the importance of using that understanding to organise its services. It has assessed the factors that are likely to influence demand over the next 15 to 20 years and has tried to identify demands that may be hidden at present, such as in relation to honour-based violence. The constabulary challenges itself to identify which of its own internal demands for additional services are unnecessary and to reduce these.
The constabulary understands the costs of the provision of police services. It consistently reviews how it can improve efficiency without reducing its service to the public, for example by making full use of a ‘diary car’ instead of an immediate police response where appropriate. It develops its policing and financial plans together, in the light of its overall priorities. It has a comprehensive ICT strategy to support these plans that is helping the constabulary both to work more efficiently and to improve its services. The constabulary involves all relevant internal departments in six-weekly strategic resourcing group meetings that monitor the policing and financial plans. Those present have the authority to take action to resolve any problems and fill any gaps that emerge. The constabulary’s internal audit team reviews not only how much the constabulary does, but also how well it is doing it. The constabulary has good working arrangements with other agencies and police forces to make sure that the right agency is tackling each task, that resources are shared effectively and that income is generated where possible.
Durham Constabulary’s plans for the future are well developed and ambitious. They make realistic assumptions based on comprehensive information about the future demand for policing and the resources that will be required. The plans take into account possible risks, including reductions in central funding. The constabulary has plans to increase its police officers from 1,150 full time equivalent in 2016/17 to 1,200 in 2018/19 and beyond. It has a detailed training plan to address the skills gaps created by those leaving the force.
How legitimate is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?
Durham Constabulary has been assessed as good in respect of the legitimacy with which it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
The constabulary has a culture in which high ethical standards are understood and practised across the organisation. It recognises the importance of enhancing public confidence and places great emphasis on ensuring that it continually reviews how this can be achieved. The constabulary continually reinforces messages of acceptable behaviour and this is widely understood across the organisation. There are however limitations in the capability to proactively identify corrupt practices. Staff wellbeing remains a priority and the constabulary recognises the link between providing an efficient and effective service to the public and maintaining a motivated, well-supported and well-managed workforce.
The constabulary and the office of the police and crime commissioner regularly use various methods, such as public perception and local area surveys, to seek the views of the public on their perceptions of treatment. The constabulary has established means of engaging with those with less trust and confidence in the police in order to understand their perception of fair and respective treatment. It has taken steps to address the concerns raised in HMIC’s 2015 legitimacy inspection, specifically relating to the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme. It uses Police and Community Together meetings and social media such as Twitter and Facebook to provide information to the community.
The constabulary understands the importance of vetting potential applicants and contract staff and has a vetting policy for recruits, including volunteers and other non-police staff, which is derived from and in line with national guidance. There is a backlog of staff who joined the organisation before 2006 and are still to go through this process. It has clear policies for business interests, notifiable associations, gifts and hospitality and social media use, and communicates these to the workforce, including volunteers. The professional standards department (PSD) raised awareness of these policies as part of its training on the Code of Ethics. The constabulary has a counter-corruption and integrity plan – developed using analysis of the National Crime Agency’s counter-corruption strategic assessment – that outlines areas of threat and gaps in service provision. Durham Constabulary uses a variety of ways to look for and encourage the reporting of potential corruption, including a confidential online system, ‘Bad Apple’. This is recognised throughout the organisation as an effective means of reporting wrongdoing. It has limited capacity to proactively seek intelligence on matters potentially related to corruption. The constabulary has an effective method for engaging with its own workforce and the public in relation to the outcome of misconduct hearings.
Durham Constabulary fully understands the benefits of engaging with its workforce in order to understand fully the matters that have most impact on its perceptions of fair and respectful treatment. The constabulary holds an annual staff survey, conducted in collaboration with Durham University Business School, designed to identify the issues that have the greatest impact on the individual while working within the organisation. Durham Constabulary fully understands the benefits of wellbeing within its workforce. Staff wellbeing is a force priority and the importance of ensuring that the workforce has appropriate support – including with regard to mental health issues – is widely recognised. Durham Constabulary has an established process for managing individual performance. Its performance development review (PDR) process is well understood and widely used by the workforce. The process enables staff to identify development and training opportunities to develop their skills and progress their career.
How well has the force performed in our other inspections?
In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections; others are joint inspections.
Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.
Police leadership is crucial in enabling a force to be effective, efficient and legitimate. This inspection focused on how a force understands, develops and displays leadership through its organisational development.
Durham Constabulary communicates extensively with its workforce to define and communicate its leadership expectations. The chief officer team champions the ‘Durham Difference’ and welcomes challenge at all times. The constabulary uses several approaches to ensure a balanced perspective, including 360-degree feedback, personality ‘pack’ profiling, formal mentoring and coaching agreements.
Senior leaders communicate regularly with staff at all levels, and chief officers carry out formal mentoring and coaching programmes. The constabulary understands its leadership teams’ capabilities and proactively looks for candidates with senior leadership potential. The constabulary recruits externally. Three candidates from other forces were recruited recently to chief inspector and superintendent roles. Durham Constabulary demonstrates best practice across many areas and regularly hosts visits from other forces to share information. Officers are encouraged to be innovative and offer suggestions for improvement. The constabulary recognises the need to increase employee diversity above and beyond the nine protected characteristics, which include age; disability; and gender reassignment, and works hard to appeal to individuals from backgrounds where joining the police is not the norm.
This section sets out the reports published by HMIC this year that help to better understand the performance of Durham Constabulary.